'If faith can do that for a man, there must be something in it.'
- Captain Les Gehres, Commanding officer of the USS Franklin, 1945
I have just finished reading I was Chaplain on the Franklin by Father Joseph T. O'Callahan for the second time, and I can confirm that it remains one of my favourite books on warfare. It's a short work, barely 150 pages, padded out with artwork and an appendix, and it tells a very simple story. But, it is a powerful tale.
In 1945, as the American fleets were closing in on Japan, Father Joseph T. O'Callahan received orders to report aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin to serve as one of two chaplains. One month later, on page 56, the carrier was hit by a pair of Japanese bombs, which turned the ship into a fiery hulk. The rest of the book is given over to the fight to save lives, save the ship, or, in the chaplain's case, to help see dying young men into the next life.
The book is packed with incredible feats of heroism. Despite Father O'Callahan winning the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on the stricken ship, the Catholic priest spends most of his narrative talking about the actions of his shipments, always attempting to give credit where it is do.
It's an usual war story. There is little actual combat, but there is an incredible fight for survival.